08/28/2006, 00.00
LEBANON
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Cardinal Sfeir grateful to Italy, France and the Lebanese army for deploying troops in south Lebanon

The patriarch is concerned about delays and unfair aid distribution.

Dimane (AsiaNews) – Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir thanked the international military forces, in particular those from France and Italy, for their commitment to "guarantee security and peace in southern Lebanon". Speaking yesterday during Sunday mass at the patriarchate's summer residence in Dimane (northern Lebanon), Cardinal Sfeir also expressed his gratitude to the Lebanese army for sending its troops to the south "to help preserve the life" of displaced people making their way home amid the rubbles.

The patriarch and the bishops of the Maronite Church also expressed their great concern over the delays with which emergency aid is being distributed to the affected population. They fear that the slow pace of reconstruction might push many Lebanese, especially Christians, to emigrate.

In a survey published by Beirut's L'Orient-Le Jour newspaper, 54 per cent of Christians, 51 per cent of Sunnis and 40 per cent of Shiites said they believed their future was abroad.

The patriarch has called for the setting up of a 'supreme committee' in charge of distributing humanitarian aid, especially medicine, so that they can be given out "equally, and reach those who need them most, and not only those in charge of the distribution".

In southern Lebanon, whilst the government's aid distribution has experiences hold-ups, the highly mobilised Hezbollah has been handing out cash on its own.

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